Secretly, I feel like a genius when I discover a secondary use for this or that—in case I run out of this, but have plenty of that. Like using a paper coffee filter to wash a glass top or mirror when I’m in a pinch for paper towels. Or using a paper towel to create a coffee filter when I discover at the worst moment that we’re out of filters! You’re going to feel like a genius, too, once you read today’s tips from ingenious readers about ways that they save time and money every day.
“OPEN FIRST” BOX. As a military family, whenever the movers arrived to move us to the next assignment, I always had one box I marked “Open First.” In it were bed sheets, towels, soap, coffee maker and toaster. No matter how late we arrived at our new home, we didn’t have to spend another night in a hotel. We could make our beds, get cleaned up and start the next day with coffee and toast, without having to open multiple boxes looking for stuff. Cindy, Ontario, Canada Continue reading
If my inbox is any indicator of what’s going on in the world, and I believe it is, smelly towels are a growing problem for consumers—and for sure EC readers. And it’s a rather new problem, the result of modern things like front-loading high efficiency washing machines, detergents, fabric softeners and damp conditions. If you’ve noticed the gross smell of stinky, albeit appearing to be washed, dried and ready to go, perhaps you’ve also noticed that your towels have begun to repel rather than absorb water.
SMELL. That moldy, mildewy, gross smell? It’s the result of the built up of detergents and fabric softeners that have not been rinsed out properly, together with damp, moist conditions. What you have there is a breeding ground for bacteria. No wonder you’ve got a big gross smelly laundry problem.
ABSORBENCY. If your towels have stopped doing what they’re supposed to do well—absorb water—that problem stems from the same source: Detergent and fabric softener build up. Seriously! With detergent and laundry, more is decidedly not better.
Frugality. It’s a word that for many people screams deprivation and even poverty. I get letters from readers who say they’ve had it with trying to live below their means and never having anything they love. “What’s the point if all of this deprivation if it just makes me feel even more miserable?” was the way one woman closed her letter.
Look, I can’t know your particular situation. But I do know this: If you adjust your attitude, get a plan and then let nothing stop you from reaching it, you can have the things you love.
Frugality isn’t just about cutting costs. There has to be a specific reason involved. And it can’t be something nebulous like “Because I want to be rich.” Frugality is about scrimping and cutting like crazy on the things you really don’t care about so that you can the things you love. It’s a matter of deciding what’s really important and what’s not—and I mean on a daily basis, and as a way of life. You have to get out of your “coma spending” and into conscious spending where every expenditure counts and every dollar matters. Continue reading
Panera Bread opened a new bakery-cafe located dangerously close to my home, a situation that gives new meaning to the term “mixed emotions.”
On the one hand my husband and I love their muffins. But at $33 a dozen ($2.75 each), the feeling tends to sour.
An occasional muffin has never posed a fiscal threat. But with this new location being so handy, that could change quickly had I not made it my business to figure out how to win at the muffin game.
I tell you this not so much as to boast (well, maybe just a little), but to share my recipes and tricks for how to make muffins from scratch that are quick, easy and even more delicious than the ones at Panera, and for less than $4 a dozen, or about $.33 each. Continue reading
Dear Mary: My young grandson is getting married soon, and neither he nor his fiance can cook. Could you please recommend a good all-purpose cookbook AND a microwave cookbook for newlyweds who will have a very tight and limited budget? I’m thinking this would be a useful and practical wedding gift. Thank you for your time in answering my question. It is appreciated. Connie R.
Some rights reserved by Mel B.
Dear Connie: Oh, this is so much fun for me because I feel like I have a captive audience in your kiddos, and a willing giver in you. I love, Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions, by Nancy Mills and her son Kevin Mills. It’s written in college-student speak, so your kids should find it reader-friendly and not at all intimidating. And it hits on the basics like Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, French Toast, Baked Salmon with Garlic, Al Dente Asparagus, just to name a few. And the book teaches cooking “How Tos,” like how to peel garlic, how to get the whole meal on the table at once, what to do with leftovers, and on it goes. This book is a gem. It was first published in 1996, but has been updated and revised since. My original tattered copy is a testament to how I have used it myself, and learned a great deal. Perhaps my favorite chapter of all, “Food to Keep on Hand So You Won’t Starve.” Continue reading